The Rusty Toque | Issue 3 | Poetry | October 12, 2012
Someone puts tracts in my mailbox. They come disguised as coupons. Eager for deals on veggies
or shampoo, I open them. They say I’m headed for Hell. They list the punishments I can expect when I arrive. These punishments are severe, and apparently go on forever, without even a short break. The tracts point out that if I had repented my sins to Christ, I would have been saved—once. Too late now, they explain. It is foretold that a precise number of souls will get to Heaven, but the number was reached long ago.
I would like the tracts to stop. I watch my mailbox all day. No one comes. And yet, when I peek
in, it’s there: another tract. It tells me that I can’t evade what’s due. My wickedness demands that
I be judged. I look around. Up and down the street, my gaze takes a stroll. Willow trees kneel to pray. Stout shrubs tilt in supplication. Fervour grips the street, and penitence, and pleas that we be saved, all of us, even the shrubs. Well, either that or the wind’s picked up. You’d be amazed how the wind can make stuff bend.
Someone taught the stutterer to utter lines with rich mellifluence.
I’ve a tough time pushing such sluggish syllables out.
Domineer me, stir the old churn, and my mouth reverts molasses-ward.
All of which is fine should suaveness in its finery be debunked.
Still the fingertip thrills to silk. Still the monarch’s vestment bristles with invisible
threads. They must be not seen to be believed. They dazzle on a Friday
when the factory siren whines day’s end. We all spill out, pop beers
and ooh. Though some call bull. Not me; I long to be seduced.
The beer is froth. My shift broke all my nails.
The royal carriage wears a crust of mould.
I’m dusting off an old silk robe
too fine for eyes. I can’t quite get a sentence out―I’d fail as a judge.
Someone tore the light out of my clothes. Someone set alight
the tar behind my slick, bruised lips. And the lean legs of the vowel getting mired.
DRIED MY EYES
Dried my eyes
and slunk out of the tower where I worked
and found the smokers clustered by the door,
coughing, shooting shit, recounting
how one day the big red bell
struck itself, repeatedly,
because of smoke.
Having dried my eyes, I spotted
all the paper blowing down the street.
The articles and photographs and letters to an editor
who never answered. All the adult classifieds.
My eyes would not stay dry.
In bars I couldn’t see the TV sets.
Could not make out the score.
Could not discern the urgent headline
scrolling underneath a shot of coiffs
and mouths ajar to let opinions out.
I couldn’t see the latest, and I wept.
I’m in good company. Don’t mock.
Da Vinci wept. The Brontë sisters wept.
Marcel Marceau evinced that he was weeping.
Every major prophet must have wept--
the things they would have seen!
And monsters wept. Yes, Himmler wept,
and Torquemada in his toils wept.
Surgeons worked my moistened eye,
stripped out the blots that hovered
everywhere I peered.
Efficient as a dagger’s tip
they went too far, too deep,
and scoured my very sight.
Letters ten feet high are meaningless.
Cloudy symbols and their high romance
are hieroglyphic now. My fingers itch
for Braille prowess, but that’s a long way off.
The classes don’t resume until next year.
Somewhere out beyond the old screen door
that’s meant to keep mosquitoes out
but fails because it’s gashed,
figures lurch and stumble from the marsh.
I cannot see them come.
You listening, Doc?
Yeah, you who wrecked my eyes?
You hear the slurp as legs work free
from gripping muck? You hear the bullrush break?
Mistakes don’t disappear. Their discharge festers.
PETER NORMAN'S first poetry collection, At the Gates of the Theme Park (Mansfield Press, 2010) was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry. His second collection is forthcoming from Mansfield in 2013, and his first novel from Douglas & McIntyre in 2014. He lives in Toronto.